Altantuya Shaariibuu: A murder that still captivates the world, 12 years later

Altantuya Shaariibuu: A murder that still captivates the world, 12 years later

KUALA LUMPUR: When two Malaysian elite policemen shot dead Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu and blew her body to bits with military grade explosives in a forest in Shah Alam in 2006, it also ripped apart the world of her father Setev Shaariibuu. 

Shaariibuu, a professor of film study who traverses between the world of make-believe and reality in his profession, probably never imagined such a script could be written for his life. 

His demeanour is full of sadness: During his visit to Malaysia last week to seek justice for Altantuya, he did not smile during the time when the media followed him around.

“My family and I have persevered, endured deep anguish and unending grief for the grotesque wanton murder of my eldest daughter for the last 12 years,” he told reporters.

Altantuya, 28, left behind two sons – one of them is disabled and bedridden while the other is currently a student. They are aged 14 and 20, respectively.

The older son is aware of what happened to his mother, said Shaariibuu.

“Altantuya was the main bread winner for her family of seven including her two sons and one of them (is) a disabled bed-ridden son. With her death, I felt I lost my right hand man,” said Shaariibuu.


“My daughter’s eldest son started to work when he was 11 to carry goods in the market in order to earn money for medicine for his brother,” said Shaariibuu.

The devastation visited upon his family spawned more victims – his wife became psychologically disturbed and developed a heart condition.

“The mother of Altantuya became psychologically disturbed … there is one more person in the family that needed someone else’s care,” said Shaariibuu.

Shaariibuu will turn 70 this October, but his upended life has forced him to take on three different jobs to feed the family.

“Finding myself in such a difficult situation, I carried all the burden and at such an age, I had to work three different jobs,” said Shaariibuu.

“I don’t have much property. But because of such difficult issues, I had to sell my two-room apartment and spend (money) for the medical expenses of my youngest grandchild and for the living expenses,” said Shaariibuu.

His latest trip to Malaysia was funded by "good samaritans" from  the Malaysian public who are not connected to any political parties, according to his lawyer Ramkarpal Singh.


Altantuya was a stunning woman – tall, willowy with exquisite features. But her mesmerising beauty came to be a curse.

She grew up in Saint Petersburg, Russia and spoke fluent Russian, English, Chinese and Korean. She was both a model and a translator.

In 2004 while in Hong Kong, Altantuya met a married Malaysian political analyst named Abdul Razak Baginda and the two began an affair.

Razak was no ordinary political analyst. He was a friend and associate of Najib Razak, who was then Malaysia’s defence minister. The analyst acted as Najib's advisor from 2000 to 2008. Najib later rose to become the prime minister in 2009.

Sometime in 2006, the affair between Altantuya and Razak soured and he abruptly ended it.

Later that year, Altantuya came to Malaysia together with her sister and cousin to track down Razak, who had refused to see her.

She located his home and, from the gate of his house, cried out to him to come out.

On the night of Oct 19, 2006 at around 8pm, Altantuya once again appeared outside Razak’s home. On seeing her, two policemen from the Special Action Unit seized her and forced her into a car.

They drove her to a forested area in Shah Alam, Selangor.

In the dark, silent forest, the men threw her onto the ground and fired two shots into her head. 

They then strapped military grade explosives onto her body and detonated them, blowing her body to bits. 

altantuya timeline

In an interview with Al Jazeera in 2015, her father said he went to the crime scene and described it as looking like a war zone.

“I saw the actual crime scene. I had to go (there). It looked like there has been a war, a bomb site. Just imagine. That’s what I saw,” he said.

Razak was charged with abetting her murder but he was freed by the High Court in 2008.

The two cops, Sirul Azhar Umar and Azilah Hadri, who were once Najib's bodyguards, were found guilty and sentenced to death in 2015.

There was speculation that Altantuya was killed because she tried to blackmail Razak as she came to know of alleged corruption in a US$1.1 billion French Scorpene-class submarine deal which he had brokered in 2002 for the Defence Ministry.

Altantuya was rumoured to have demanded US$500,000 from Razak.

French financial prosecutors are probing the sale of two Scorpene-class submarines built by France’s state-controlled warship builder DCN International (DCNI), and have placed Razak under formal investigation in connection with the deal.  


“For the past 12 years, I did not receive justice. The previous government did everything to prevent the truth from emerging,” said Shaariibuu on Tuesday (Jun 19). 

Shaariibuu believes the new Pakatan Harapan administration “will do everything under its power” to render justice and bring an end to the grief and suffering of his family.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad received Shaariibuu at his office on Thursday and expressed support for investigation into Altantuya’s murder to be reopened. 

This was followed by the Inspector-General of Police Fuzi Harun announcing the very next day that investigations would recommence.


Up until today, no one knows who ordered Altantuya’s murder and what were the real reasons for killing her.

The two convicted police officers had never met Altantuya prior to her murder.

Shaariibuu lodged a police report last Thursday to jumpstart investigations into her murder.

In his police report, Shaariibuu said he believed Azilah and Sirul’s claim that they did not know Altantuya before they murdered her.

“… as such (they) could not have had any possible motive to kill her,“ said Shaariibuu in the police report.

Shaariibuu’s lawyer Ramkarpal told Channel NewsAsia they were “obviously ordered to kill her”.

“There is absolutely no reason for them to kill her. Obviously they were instructed to do so. Those who ordered her killed are just as culpable for murder and should be brought to justice,” said Ramkarpal.

“We hope a new investigation will reveal who was the mastermind of her murder,” Ramkarpal added.

A former aide-de-camp of Najib, Musa Safri, was named as a “crucial witness” to Altantuya’s murder in Shaariibuu’s police report.

"Musa Safri, he is ... a very crucial witness. He is important because according to the prosecution's criminal case, he played a very significant role," Ramkarpal told reporters.

“Why did the prosecution not call him in the past? It's a glaring omission on his (prosecutor's) part,” he added. 


Though 12 years have passed, Altantuya’s murder continues to captivate the Malaysian public.

Eric Paulsen, executive director of human rights group Lawyers for Liberty, said reopening the case is important so that the many questions about what happened to Altantuya can finally be answered. 

“This is a grisly murder. It looks like a Hollywood movie (but) the only thing is, it is true.”

Source: CNA/ac